Gord Turner: Examining the pain of water thresholds

When I was growing up, I always hated thresholds.

When I was growing up, I always hated thresholds, meaning that’s as far as I could go or as much as I could have.

I hated having to stop something if I were getting close to what my Mom or Dad would allow.

And it’s still the same for me today: Whenever there’s a cap to something or an allowable threshold, I begin to chafe. I know that such limits are going to cut me off — or perhaps in this day and age cost more money.

Such is the case with the City of Castlegar’s water consumption plan. Everything works off of meter readings, which I’m not opposed to. In fact, when I was on City Council, I voted for meters because of the community’s excessive water usage and the cost of the infrastructure to deliver safe water. What I’m opposed to are the rates the city has come up with.

To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with the flat rate homeowners will be charged before adding on the extra consumption charges.

As homeowners, we will be allowed the use of 30 cubic meters of water each month at a basic charge. So if we use less than these 30 cubic meters of water in every month of the year, we will only be paying the flat rate of $360, a savings of $59.28 from current flat rates.

But here’s the catch or the kicker: For those homeowners who want to maintain a seasonably green lawn, a few flowers, and a moderately sized garden, if we use beyond the 30 cubic meter threshold, it will cost us 68 cents for every extra cubic meter of water. For most homeowners, the threshold of 30 cubic meters of water is not enough in the summer. In fact, as I talked with homeowners at the city’s recent (Nov. 1) water and sewer rates meeting, I discovered many users had readings beyond 150 cubic meters in each of July and August. Their costs for water usage would probably be more than $200 beyond the previous flat-rate the city billed for.

A friend of mine who is a homeowner decided he would try to keep his water usage down this summer. He and his wife (only two people in the household) decided to shower only three times a week, to use the dishwasher every second or third day, and to water their lawn/garden sporadically. In the end, their July and August consumption readings were around 60 cubic meters of water for each of those two months. He doesn’t know what he could do to get a lower reading and still have a decent-looking yard.

I have a much bigger yard than his by far. My own readings for the summer were 103 and 98 cubic meters for the two months. Whereas his extra costs for consumption will be an additional $41, mine will be $96. I guess we two homeowners can afford this extra cost as the flat rate is set at $360, but I don’t know what others whose usage is much higher will do.

If I had my druthers, I’d probably like to have a slightly higher flat rate charge based upon a higher allowable threshold in July and August — say 60 cubic metres for each of those months. The flat-rate then would be about $400, but a lot more people might be able to keep their water use under the 60 threshold. It would be a target even I might be able to reach.

Clearly, 30 cubic meters of water use in the summer months is not manageable. The excessively hot summers in this valley and the sandy soils of Castlegar properties make that threshold an impossible one to stay under.

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